Looking and feeling good is not just about our minds, bodies and spirits. Nice clothes that are nicely cared for help us to be beautiful on any day, even those when our inner self is feeling blue. For me, a sweater or dress that fits well and is neat can boost not only my confidence but my mood. At this time of year, when I’m putting the winter woolies away until fall, I always think of my grandmother and her heart-stopping collection of chic clothing.
Gran was a flapper and so accustomed to having a wardrobe full of up to the minute fashions. She wasn’t wealthy by any means, though, so she often made her own clothes. This included lovely sweaters and gowns which she knit herself. Taking care of such special things in a time when hand washing was really the only option took know-how. And Gran knew how to such a degree that she still had some of her 1920s trousseau to show me when I was a little girl.
These woolens were washed only one or two times a year as they were always worn over blouses, shifts or camisoles. The formula for the wash was a home recipe that I have kept with Gran’s others. Though I don’t use it often, I highly recommend it as both a wonderful cleanser and a superior alternative to dry cleaning which can be bad for both clothing and the environment.
2 cups water
2 cups Ivory Soap flakes
½ cup denatured alcohol
2 ½ teaspoons eucalyptus oil
Bring water to a boil and stir in the soap flakes. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until the soap has dissolved. The mixture should be smooth. Add the eucalyptus oil and the denatured alcohol and mix thoroughly. Spoon into a jar with a wide mouth and a tight, screw-0n lid which should be kept sealed when not in use. Allow the mixture to sit for a day or two by which time it should become a relatively solid mass.
To use, dissolve one or two tablespoons in a wash bucket filled with warm water. Swish you garment, blanket or other woolen item through the water until it is soaked. Wring gently and lay flat to dry. You do not need to rinse unless you are washing white laundry in which case it is good to run the garment under cool water to prevent yellowing.
The process is very simple and, thanks to the eucalyptus oil, pleasantly uplifting. The oil will not only ensure a fresh scent but a soft garment that is untroubled by moths.
Header: Design for a woolen gown by Raoul Dufy from Gazette du Bon Ton c 1920 (via Boston Public Library)